POT HOLES IN THE ROADS OF DEMOCRACY. PT 1

This message will be delivered in two parts. It is my hope that you would take the time to read and consider the importance and necessity of political institutions and the roles a democracy based republic operates within them.

I grew up near the Great Lakes with lot’s of snow and ice every winter. At the start of spring I could count on a city wide obstacle course of dodging large pot-holes due to the expansion and contraction of ice. It was fully expected by all citizens that these cursed pot holes would be quickly filled before a myriad of flat tires, bent wheels, and even broken axles would become a certainty. I always just assumed that it would get done and quickly! But stop for a moment to think about the evolution of human societies based on political institutions that makes this possible. Government solely reflective of what’s spiritual is of no earthly and practical good to everyday life. Earthly based government without the overarching authority and wisdom of God to clearly define morals is corrupt and ineffective. The future of democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere will hinge upon restoring accountable government, trust within its populace, moral certainties, and strong leadership to follow through for the best interest of the nation as a whole.

The recent wave of anxieties about the future of democracy (as we understand and know it) is interesting whether from a natural or spiritual perspective. Many are looking for the abolition of contemporary government and the trending growth of socialist based governments reflect this mindset. It seems that all of us take political institutions for granted and fail to understand where they came from or how they came into existence. This part of the two part article will lay a bit of a foundation. Part two will focus more on cause and effect along with prophetic insight of our future state depending on the collective choices we make as a nation and region.

During the 40 year period from 1970 to 2010, there was a stark upsurge in the amount of democracies around world. For instance, in 1973, 75 of the world’s 151 countries were counted as ‘politically and culturally free’ according to the criteria of Freedom House. Freedom House is a NGO that compiles and produces measurements of civil and political rights for countries in all continents of the world. As early as 1973 – Spain, Portugal, and Greece were dictatorships. The USSR and its Eastern European allies reflected a strong and somewhat stable society on the surface which deceived many western academics. Of course, the mask of communism would later be removed to reveal a fractured and torn social fabric. China at this time was being brain-washed in the grip of Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution. Africa saw the consolidation of power by corrupt presidents as I spell out in my WordPress article: “The Invasion of the Political Intelligentsia.” And most of South America came under military dictatorships who’s platform was geared toward the societal poor or disenfranchised.

The following generation realized the political and societal stress cracks and dictated momentous political change with democracies and market based economies spreading throughout the world except for the Arab Middle East (The Middle East rejection of democratically based institutions with the exception of Israel is interesting in and of itself and I have discussed this in detail in other WordPress articles) By the late 1990’s some 120 countries around the world (more than 65% of the world’s independent states) had become electoral democracies. Electoral based democracy became part of the politically accepted landscape at the beginning of the 21st century and the future for individual freedom and liberty seemed bright.

Underlying these political systems was a massive social transformation as well. The shift to democracy was the result of millions upon millions of predominately passive individuals around the world who organized themselves and participated in the political life of their city, society, and nation. This social mobilization was driven by a myriad of invisible factors. Greatly enhanced access to education proved people more aware or conscious of themselves and the political world around them. Information technology spread the rapid transferal of ideals, ideologies, and knowledge. Inexpensive travel allowed people to vote much easier if they didn’t like the existing or current government. Lastly, greater monetary prosperity or ease of life in general demanded better protection of their rights and personal possessions.

However, something stunted the democratic invasion and in the 1990’s and what I will term as a “Political Democratic Recession” occurred. One in five countries that had previously swept into the democratic revival either reverted to authoritarianism or realized a significant erosion of democratic institutions and democratic ideology. Freedom House noted that 2009 marked the 4th consecutive year in which democratic freedom had declined around the world. This was the first time that this had happened since Freedom House had begun measuring freedom with metrics since 1973.

Why? Is the world politically anxious or just expressing a poker face knowing that the cards they have been dealt by the political dealer has been stacked?

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, political and spiritual laziness reflected many forms and manifestations. The first was the outright reversal of many democratic gains that had occurred in countries such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran to name a few where elected leaders were busy dismantling electoral or democratic institutions by suppressing or manipulating elections, closing or buying independent media outlets, and persecuting opposition activity under the guise of “patriotism” and if you can believe it, “tolerance.” The embracing and interpretation of ‘tolerance’ around the world will be the catalyst of the antichrist spirit in how it captures the heart and soul of democratic based societies. Remember, the enemy of Christ is a counterfeiter and not a creator. The interpretation and implementation of “tolerance” will have great prophetic and political significance as the days unfold.

True democratic freedom is more than majority voting in elections. It is a complex set of institutions that restrain and regulate the exercise of power by societal law along with a system of checks and balances which the U.S. Constitution wisely reflects. In many countries today, an official acceptance of ‘democratic legitimacy’ is also accompanied by the systematic removal of checks and balances by unrestrained executive power and the erosion of specific societal laws which work hand in glove with democracy. In other words, the ‘mask of democracy’ is initially promoted but quickly adulterated.

Likewise, in other regions, things have become a shade of grey where political entities are neither authoritarian nor democratic. Many successor states to the Soviet Union such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan found themselves in this political and institutional situation. There was a naturally simplistic and spiritually immature assumption at the time and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that virtually all countries were transitioning to democracy. Prophetic articles written at that time if read today would cause the church to blush at its spiritual naivety and prophetic ignorance. It was thought that all socialist and communist ideologies would be simply overcome through the passage of time and the power of the United States expression of democracy would prevail in the end.

This western mindset was deceived by the fleshly pull of assumption which has plagued the naturally uneducated and spiritual novice throughout history. The truth is that no authoritarian elites had any interest in implementing democratic institutions that would dilute their power. The prophetic insight points not so much that political bodies around the world become or remain democratic, but rather, their failure to deliver the basic services that citizens should expect from their governments when certain “pot holes” become a reality. The mere fact that a country has a democratic institution tells us very little about whether it is properly or badly governed. The systematic failure to deliver on the promises of democracy possesses the greatest challenge to the legitimacy of such political systems.

The Ukraine as a good example. The Ukraine surprised the world in 2004 when thousands upon thousands of people tuned up at what is now Independence Square in Kiev to protest the exposed manipulations of the presidential election. The protest became historically known as the Orange Revolution. It was this revolution that would stage the rise of the political reformer Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko as president. However, once in power, the Orange coalition proved to be no more than a string cut from the previous political cloth bringing great disappointment to the Ukrainian people who had tremendous hopes. The government quarreled and fought internally, failed to address the Ukraine’s chronic corruption problem, and could not rightly govern the global financial melt-down between 2008 and 2009. The end result was the election of Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 who is ironically the same man accused of stealing the 2004 election which had triggered the revolution that previously removed him!

Many other societal features plague democratic countries. It is well understood that Latin America has the highest level of economic inequality of any geography in the world. Class hierarchies often correspond to racial and ethnic differences. The rise of populist (socialist) leaders such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, is less a cause of instability than a symptom of economic inequality and the feeling of social exclusion felt by many who are nominally citizens due to a lack of opportunity. Persistent poverty often breeds other kinds of social dysfunctions such as gangs, drug trafficking, drug usage, black market activity which undermines healthy taxation, and a general feeling of insecurity in the part of ordinary people.

In Columbia, Mexico, and El Salvador organized crime threatens the state itself and its basic political institutions. The failure to deal effectively with these problems has undermined the legitimacy of democracy in many countries around the world. Again, democracy in and of itself or as a term means little until it meets the basic needs and expectations of its citizens. India for example, has been a reasonably successful democracy since its independence from Britain in 1947. This achievement is remarkable considering its poverty, ethnic and religious diversity, and large geographical size. Nonetheless, Indian democracy is kind of like sausage making and looks less appealing the closer one gets to the process. Nearly one third of Indian legislators are under some form of local or national criminal indictment. Some for serious crimes such as murder and rape.

Indian politicians often practice an overt form of patronage politics in which votes are traded for personal favors. The fractured like state of Indian democracy makes it very hard for the government to make major decisions on such major investments or necessities such as infrastructure and utility projects. Like a Siamese twin joined at the hip – in every glittering Indian city of high tech expressions, sits even larger areas of African style poverty.  The apparent chaos and corruption of democratic politics in India is in sharp contrast to the quick and efficient politics in China. Chinese rulers are not constrained by the rule of law which is required for genuine democracies or democratic accountability. If they want to build a large dam or bulldoze a neighborhood for manufacturing, or mount a rapid economic stimulus package – they can do so far more quickly than democratic India. These quick decision making capabilities can easily be reflected in democratic countries. If not, due to the current U.S. polarization as I will touch on later, we will find ourselves at a tremendous global disadvantage. Expedient decision making will be demanded by the global dynamics which are prophetically ahead.

On a livelier note, modern and global capitalism has in fact proved to be productive and wealth creating above the dreams of anybody living before 1800. In the period following the oil crisis of the 1970’s, the size of world economy quadrupled. South East Asia based on its propensity to trade for investment, saw much of its population join the developing world at this time. However, global capitalism has not found a way to avoid high levels of social volatility…Especially in the financial sectors. Global economic growth has been plagued by cyclical or periodic financial crises. In recent history, these have struck Europe in the early 1990’s, Asia in 1997 – 1998, Russia and Brazil from 1998 -1999, and Argentina in 2001. This instability culminated in the great crisis that struck the U.S. (the home of global capitalism) in 2008 – 2009.  Greece in 2015 has only raised the bar and template for economic disaster.

Free markets embedded within a democratic based republic are necessary to promote long term growth but they are not self-regulating. This is starkly apparent in regard to banks, energy, oil, and other large financial institutions. The system’s instability is a reflection of what is ultimately a political failure. That is, the failure to provide sufficient regulatory oversight at both national and international levels which is in the best interest of all citizens. The cumulative effect of these economic crises has not been to undermine confidence in capitalist or market based economics. I believe that sane and spirit led individuals can comprehend that global market based economics has and will continue to play a role in providing a quality of life never before experienced if stewarded well and is flexible enough to adapt to the winds of change which are certain to come. A prime example of our political shortcomings is how the world politic would deal with an environmental or global catastrophe. Some political bodies in particular countries would be efficient and others would be inefficient due to special interest entities which would prefer to profit from any means…Even a global catastrophe. Individuals and corporate entities are in fact that shortsighted and greedy if a buck is to be made…History has proven this to be true.  Democracy embedded with virtuous governors submitted to the authority of a higher moral power and wisely regulated for the benefit of its citizens is the only hope for global peace and prosperity in natural terms.

Salvation through Christ is paramount but not the focus of this message. Our place as Christians in this hour is not to wait on heaven as so many write and proclaim. We are to occupy with creativity, passion, resourcefulness, and vision for a better tomorrow for our children. This is embodiment of social stewardship. Today’s prophetic community has no power and is just a bunch of prophetically minded folks writing and speaking to other prophetically minded folks to build an audience of affirmation. The prophetic camp is inbred and mutated and lacks relevance for everyday life in its current condition.

China, India, Brazil and other so called emerging market countries continue to perform well economically based on their willing ‘participation’ in global capitalism. However, it will only last as long as the countries who truly reflect market based capitalism within their political systems and are willing to wisely regulate potential abuses such as special interest, unchecked spending, and the environment. Part of the goal of this message is finding the right political regulatory mechanisms to tame capitalism based volatility which has not been found in secular based programs, theories, and current political philosophies. Nor has the church or the prophetic body offered much help or insight. Again, only the combination of electoral democracy woven within the tapestry of divine morality through belief or submission to a loving God (a higher authority) who has clearly defined acceptable human conduct can true political stewardship and advancement be recognized.

With this said, what should we expect in regard to democracy’s future – especially in America? Political institutions develop slowly and painfully over time as human societies strive to organize themselves to master their environments and enhance the quality of life. On the other hand, political erosion and even death occurs when political systems fail to adjust to changing circumstances or events both locally and globally.  When the surrounding environment changes and new challenges arise, there is often a dislocation or disconnect between existing institutions and present societal needs. The situation in the U.S. is that most institutions which affect our lives are now supported by legions of entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental change which has compounded over the last 40 years.

American political institutions and systems are in the midst of a major test of their adaptability and survival. The American government system was built around a firm conviction that concentrated political power constituted an eminent danger to the lives and liberties of its citizens. For this reason, the U.S. Constitution was wisely designed with a wide range of checks and balances by which different parts of the government could prevent other parts from exerting tyrannical control. This system has served our country well but only because at certain crucial times and cross-roads, strong leadership and quick decision making arose and manifested. It has been historically true in the U.S. to bring political consensus in addressing national issues. Consensus was carried through not just by leadership in an of itself, but by political and market based leadership joining together in one accord for the common good of all people. Prophetic insight is pointing to the erosion of consensus as well as the eroding of political institutions and systems as originally designed in the U.S. Constitution.

We must understand that in a free society, there is no set guarantee that the U.S. political system as designed will always check tyrannical power. This is a loaded statement but true. Yet, we must allow exercise a degree of state or elected governmental authority when the need arises. The later depends on the condition of a social consensus on political ends and this has been lacking in American political life in recent years. The U.S. currently faces a series of tremendous challenges with the primary challenge being two-fold: Our continued partnership with Israel and fixing our long term financial situation (foreign debt). Over the past generation or two, Americans have spent money on themselves without paying their own way and societal bills through wise taxation. This is a situation that has been exacerbated by years of far too easy access to credit and over-spending at both the household and governmental levels. Taxation has become a curse word to those on the political and religious right. However, we (you and I) have decided to spend and wage war at a great cost and the money for these choices does not grow on trees.

Who’s responsibility is it to fix the pot-hole? Where does the money come from and who’s supposed to pay for it? You would be surprised as laid out in part two of this message.

The U.S. financial shortfalls and foreign indebtedness threatens the foundations of American political and societal power around the world as well as the future of the next generation. Instead, we are experiencing countries like China grow in relative financial stature. The Chinese currency to date is challenging the dollar on many global financial, economic, and institutional fronts. The good news is that these challenges can be overcome and it’s not too late. However, we don’t have a large window of time to move through and slay these giants. We must act in this hour before certain tragedy hits the next generation. This movement and crossing into new political and financial territories will be painful but necessary. The promised land is not about comfort, easy debt, and free fast food:. It’s about quality of life, relationships, freedom of movement through fiscal responsibility, and spiritual development. Sadly, I am personally learning how painful it is but also how liberating and truly free I have become. I simply don’t need as much as I once thought!

The U.S. political system which should facilitate the power of consensus and movement is instead contributing to the problem. The U.S. Congress has become highly polarized which is making the passage of needed legislation extremely difficult. Both major political parties in U.S politics have become much more ideologically homogenous and deliberative or constructive debate between them has deteriorated. These types of divisions are not historically unprecedented but in the past have been overcome by strong presidential leadership which has not been forthcoming.

From a spiritual vantage, is politics a cultural necessity or even an aspect of society that Christians, or for that matter, other world religions should be greatly concerned about? For example, should Christians generally ignore earthy politics and simply focus on “Heaven” or “God’s in control” or “I live in a theocracy” which I read and hear so often? Is this really God’s design and plan for the Christian that we think in such naturally generic and hyper-spiritual terms? Since “Christians” range from far left to far right, is there an opportunity for greater understanding that is being missed by the church in regard to political leadership and societal institutions? Is it possible for spiritual individuals to reflect core political and social beliefs? Maybe, our varied interpretations of spiritual writings such as the Bible are simply to tall of an obstacle to hurdle? Maybe, we’re not as spiritual as we would like to believe we are and gravitate toward what serves our personal interests? We’ll try to address these questions in pt. 2.

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BALANCING ON THE BLADE OF KNOWLEDGE

Are there things we should not know? With this simple question asked, can anyone or institution, in this culture of unfettered enterprise and growth, seriously propose limits on knowledge? Could it be that we have lost the capacity to perceive and honor the moral dimensions of such questions? It’s interesting that most science fiction stories never end well once mankind’s knowledge passes a certain and unseen threshold. Could this be prophetic and that these stories of make believe which originate deep in the mind are brought to the surface in our reality and time for a reason?

Maybe, just maybe, our increasingly bold discoveries of the secrets of nature and the cosmos may have reached the point where that knowledge is bringing us more problems than solutions. Contrasting threats like overpopulation and a spike of incurable viruses such as AIDS appear to be traceable to the effects of “progress.” One powerful reading of history clearly points out that the most advanced nations on Earth have produced unthinkable weapons of destruction at the same time as they have developed a media culture that revels in images of destructive violence. Can such a combination fail or fall short to propel us toward barbarism and self annihilation? Are we collectively asking these questions as a part of a great company of souls whose family tree is the human race? I often ponder why we don’t take the collective or corporate human experience more importantly. Maybe, it’s just too big to get our heads and arms around? Maybe, we’re just to self-consumed in our short generational span of time? Maybe, we’re just too busy trying to survive? All of these reasons should make us pause and wonder about our purpose and destiny on a much larger scale. We think so small as we struggle to clarify our own personal purposes and destiny. Thus, we have little to boast about as the human species at this time in history. Our petty beliefs, social castes, institutional and marketplace kingdoms pale in comparison to where God would have us in regard to the human condition and maturation.

In contrast, our most truly miraculous accomplishments as human beings take place unwittingly and privately, far removed from laboratories, studios, and electronic screens, almost in another universe of being. For we learn to do certain things before we know what we are doing and in ways that no one can adequately explain. In twenty four months, an infant learns to recognize and discriminate the elements of the world around herself or himself, learn to pull itself erect and to walk, learns to hear language and to talk. Is it possible that we accomplish these feats better for our lack of knowledge about how we do them? Can we know anything unwittingly? I’ve read many Proverbs from many different cultures and they all tell us that it is possible to know too much for our own good. Many great myths and legends explore the perils of of knowledge. Fortunately, infants continue to learn to walk and talk…However, and oddly, multitudes continue to feel apprehensive about the future in our evolving culture.

I believe that we have prophetically awoken and have waked up to the dangers to our physical environment brought on by the depredations of fellow human beings. But we have taken less notice of potential threats to our intellectual, artistic, and moral environments. It is those three areas that demand prophetic focus and clarity of resolution if the days ahead will indeed be brighter. In every age, news of wars, disasters, and crimes has been appalling. Without overcoming those ancient woes, we now have new ones to lament because we have failed to collectively mature. In the twentieth century, we arrogantly basked with reports of marvels, but are also deep afflictions, brought about not by backwardness and ignorance but by advancing knowledge and its applications. Not only the most barbarous nations but also the most civilized nations expend vast resources to develop nuclear and biological weapons of unthinkable destructive force. Genetic research raises the remote prospect of choosing out children’s physical and mental endowment like wallpaper patterns, The invasive presence of audiovisual media in our lives from the earliest infancy threatens to shape our character and behavior as forcefully as genetic manipulation. In our quest for energy sources, we may be reducing the life span of our planet and ability to sustain its population. Scientific research, freedom of speech, the autonomy of art, and academic freedom will combine forces to carry us beyond our capacities as human agents to control our fate unless bridled with maturity and human morality that is deeply seated in all of us. The catch is that we choose to be disobedient in the grip of our appetites. Truly, what we perceive as our greatest blessings will soon confound us like a glutton choking at a great banquet.

I hate that fatuousness of a mind that excuses what it explains…and that analyzes itself instead of repenting. ~ Benjamin Constant, Adolphe, 1816.